MANILA, Philippines — The government has allocated P15 million for the H1N1 project of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) enabling the country to get a bigger chance of being represented in the global vaccine development.
By putting a strong focus on H1N1 vaccine, through its work in sequencing of the virus, the government is putting the Philippines in the map of the H1N1 vaccine development of the World Health Organization (WHO). While there may no longer be developments that highlight risks in another H1N1 epidemic, having its own vaccine ensures ready supply for its people.
NIH Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana, H1N1 program project leader, said the H1N1 program of NIH has already sequenced 52 samples of the H1N1 virus from only six sequenced samples.
Prior to the program, the six sequenced samples even came from Australia since the Philippines previously did not have DNA sequencing capability.
Part of the program is acquisition of equipment for the sequencing capability including PCR polymerase chain reaction.
“We have to generate our own data, or there’s nothing that WHO will take into consideration when they’re deciding on what strains to cover for vaccine development,” said Salvana in an interview at the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development anniversary celebration.
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“If the Philippines is not represented , our unique issues will not have a say in what will come out.”
The Philippines has already published information on all 52 samples with the Genbank, a global genetic sequence database.
This data present so much significance as the DNA sequencing will help determine if the Philippine population already has resistance to existing H1N1 drugs, particularly oseltamivir.
“If you’re caught with your pants down, and the only time you know there’s resistance to oseltamivir because a lot of people are failing therapy, then it may take some time before you can bring in another drug. What we’re doing is an early warning system,” Salvana said.
NIH is working with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) on a collaborative DNA sequencing work. RITM has been sequencing viral cultures, while NIH has been sequencing from virus taken directly from infected patients.
Since culturing takes time of two to three weeks before sequencing may be done, the collaborative work will involve real time sequencing.
“We’re not doing real time samples yet. We’re doing archive samples. We’ll do real time samples when we collaborate with RITM hopefully beginning next month,” he said.
Since many H1N1 virus strains in the world have already developed resistance to drug adamantine, the need now is to ensure that the Philippine H1N1 strains are not yet resistant to oseltamavir.